The View From Fr. Raph’s Window

July 26, 2020

This past week on July 22nd, we celebrated the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles. You may or may not remember that back in June of 2016, Pope Francis re-elevated the status of her memorial to a feast day. This decision both emphasizes the importance of women in the mission of Christ and His Church, and is more in continuity with the development of the Church’s tradition over the centuries.

Other than the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene is the only other woman whose day has the rank of a Feast. With a few exceptions, the only other Feasts in the liturgical calendar are mysteries of the life of Jesus, and the feast days of the Apostles. But in past centuries, more prominence was given to St. Mary Magdalene. For example, we know that in the Middle Ages, the practice developed of reciting the Creed during Mass on her feast day – something we only do on Sundays and Solemnities now – to reflect how she, the Apostle to the Apostles, was the one who first announced faith in the Resurrection to the Apostles.

Much ink has been spilled over the centuries and more recently, as to whether Mary Magdalene, Mary the sister of Martha, and the anonymous repentant woman who anoints the feet of Jesus, are the same person. There are a variety of opinions on this question among the Saints and Doctors of the Church. What we can say, however, is that she is not St. Mary of Egypt, with whom her story was sometimes confused in the past, nor is there any substantial tradition identifying her with the woman caught in adultery.

But more relevant for our times is what happened on that morning of the Resurrection. As we know, the Risen Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, and she doesn’t recognize Him at first, because she is so intent on finding the dead body of Jesus. And it’s only her encounter with the Risen Jesus that allows her to let go and be led by Him into her vocation as the Apostle to the Apostles.

Many people have compared the present pandemic as an experience of grieving our
“normal” life, of being at the tomb. But the way forward for us, disciples of the Risen Jesus, is to seek Jesus as best we can in the midst of this, and to wait for Him to call our name, like St. Mary Magdalene, and to lead us forward in our vocations.

~ Fr. Raphael CR

July 19, 2020

This past Friday July 17th was the anniversary of the ground breaking or sod turning for St. Francis of Assisi church. We had been hoping to have some kind of commemorative event like a tree planting or something like that, but as we all know, everyone’s plans were interrupted by the global pandemic.

We’ve posted some historical photos on the website from that day, and I invite you to check them out.

Perhaps in this time of COVID-19 with all the social and physical distancing that we’ve had to do, we are in a place to appreciate in a new way the blessing of having an actual physical space in which to worship God.

Certainly we can and should pray wherever we are, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel: “…But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” [Matthew 6:6]

But Jesus also wants us to gather and pray together as a community of believers, above all, at the celebration of the Eucharist. If not, He would not also have said to us: “…Do this in memory of me.” [Luke 22:19]

And so we continue to thank God for the gift of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, for all the hard work and generosity of volunteers, donors, parish staff, and all the faithful who have made our parish what it is today.

And on a more personal note, I’d like to share with you one of my favourite pieces of music, which comes to my mind when I think of Church buildings. It’s a motet entitled Locus Iste – often sung at Masses for the dedication of a Church – which in Latin means “This Place.” The most famous setting that I know of, is by the Austrian Composer Anton Bruckner, and is easy to find on the internet if you want to give it a listen. The words are loosely based on Jacob’s exclamation after his dream about the ladder, and what God said to Moses at the burning bush:

Locus iste a Deo factus est,
inaestimabile sacramentum,
irreprehensibilis est.

This place was made by God,
an inestimable mystery,
it is without reproach.

~ Fr. Raphael CR

July 12, 2020

Another little milestone in our gradual process of re-opening will be the first Baptisms to be celebrated in our parish since we had to close our doors back on March 16th.  Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 and the precautions that the Diocese of Hamilton has instructed us to observe, we are not yet able to celebrate Baptisms during Mass, as is our custom here at St. Francis.

However, even though Baptisms will have to be celebrated outside of Mass for the time being, and with only one family at a time and their guests, Baptism is still Baptism, and we are pleased to welcome the two newest members of the Body of Christ, the Catholic Church, and St. Francis parish this weekend.

And I think especially given recent events in the news, this is a good opportunity for us to reflect on one of the effects of Baptism – being welcomed into the Church.

Baptism makes us members of the Church throughout the world, and throughout history, the Communion of Saints, the Body of Christ – of which St. Francis parish is a vital part.

We believe that even from the standpoint of creation alone, because all people have same nature and origin – created in the image and likeness of God – we are different, though equal.  “Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.” (CCC 1935)

But not only are we created in the image and likeness of God, as Christians, we have an even deeper identity than any differences.  We are also reconciled with God through the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, and through Baptism, made members of His body, which triumphs over all divisions:

“…For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” [Galatians 3:27-28]

Certainly the Church in different places and periods in history has failed to live up to and manifest this teaching and our Baptismal identity.  But there have also been times and places where it has courageously witnessed to this truth as well.  So as we welcome these new children of God, and all the others who will be baptized during the remainder of the pandemic, we can thank God for the gift that He has placed within each of us, which transcends all other differences.

~ Fr. Raphael CR

July 5, 2020

As many of you know, along with Churches throughout the Diocese of Hamilton, we were able to re-open our doors a few weeks ago. I’d like to thank Fr. Tim, the parish staff, and our volunteers for all the preparation, protocols, and precautions that went into making this possible.

For those of you who have been able to join us in person, thank you for your patience and cooperation with the various safety precautions required by the Diocese of Hamilton, such as:

  • Following the strong recommendation to wear a non-medical mask or face covering
  • Sanitizing your hands upon entering the Church
  • Sitting where directed by the ushers to maintaining physical distancing
  • Not having hymnals in the pews (but we still have music!)
  • Maintaining physical distancing at the sign of peace and in the Communion procession
  • Receiving Communion in the hand, and without speaking
  • Maintaining physical distancing as you exit after Mass

Also, with the help of volunteers under the direction of our building manager, Gary Howell, all touch points in the Church are disinfected after each Mass.

For those of you who have not yet been able to join us again in person – I know you want to, but have good reasons to not do so just yet – please be assured of our continued prayers for you at Mass. We look forward to the day when you can join us once again. Since I’ve been asked by a few parishioners, I’d like to remind you the Bishop has reiterated that our obligation to participate in Sunday Mass is temporarily suspended until further notice, in light of the ongoing pandemic.

To all of you who have continued to support us with your regular Sunday offering as well as other donations, thank you. Thanks to your continued generosity in these financially uncertain times, we are no longer eligible for the Canadian government’s emergency wage subsidy. This is a good thing. Our donations were only down 21% for the month of May, as opposed to the required 30% to be eligible for the wage subsidy.

Finally, although we have been able to re-open the Church for Mass, there are still limitations on inperson programs, and so we are trying to do our best to stay in touch and to walk with you in our journey of faith. I welcome any suggestions and new ideas you have about how we can do this in the months ahead.

~ Fr. Raphael CR